# When the Kids do NOT Listen to Instructions

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Yesterday was fun and frustrating for me building mousetrap cars with the College for Kids class. They are so excited when I hand them the kit, maybe that is part of the problem. I try to go through a single task with the class very carefully. Very few of them must be listening as they each individually have to come over to me and ask what I just explained. Hopefully they will do better on today’s project.
Bill Kuhl

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I know it sounds like an oxymoron but if you let the students lead each other it works magnificently. I like the 'go figure it out' method with periodical chances for groups to be experts. As breakthroughs are made I will stop the class and have the 'out of the box' group come up front and present on 1) What their idea or breakthrough is and even more importantly 2) What the process was that lead them to this discovery.

This allows student to discover the trail to completion and lets students show off and demonstrate creative thinking.

I agree- sometimes telling them to figure it out and provide hints and guidance when it gets frustrating is more active learning than a more rote "tab A into slot B" step by step approach....

Unfortunately, there is not always enough time to let them "figure it out" on their own. In addition, there are always some kids who need to be shown a way, any way, to jump start their brains. Otherwise, you end up with the quick "figure it out" students who always do all the work or run roughshod over the slower kids, and the ones who need help to get started just watching or not finishing. Then the ones who needed to have been taught in the first place think they are just stupid. That is never good.

I really dislike the teachers who just say "figure it out", and then check out mentally, expecting the students to all teach each other. It is probably not anyone reading here, but I see it so frequently, I wonder why these "teachers" are being paid at all. There is a happy medium between abandoning students completely, and giving basic instructions, then releasing the students to figure it out.

Not that I enjoy being "disliked", but I always tell my students to "figure it out". Why would a teacher not give this instruction to his or her students? Much to the consternation of my administrators, I make time for my students to do things themselves. Why would I do otherwise? I expect that by the end of the school year, each of my classes is able to enter the room, find the agenda for the day, find and organize their resources, and get to work on the assignment. I expect them to do this with little more from me than my nodding approval for a job well done. I also truly enjoy watching my students interact as the "figure it out" students work with the "slower kids" to bring them up to speed. When I was studying to be a teacher, we were taught that teachers and coaches are to "instruct and inspire". Student teachers at the university where I completed my undergraduate studies were taught that the goal of the classroom teacher was to cultivate independent thinkers and do-ers who would eventually assume the responsibilities of teachng and learning. Imagine that. Believe it or not, my students have been pretty successful with this approach. They come to enjoy relying on themselves rather than the teacher, and are very proud to tell the admin. (during the cursory walkthroughs)what is going on and that they are in charge. I guess I want to feel confident that when I do "abandon" my students, they will be able to figure some things out for themselves. Just food for thought.

I my situation, one week and several projects to complete,I have to agree with the above. Many of the students just did not have the background in building to figure it out on their own. In some cases if they would do it so wrong that I would have to spend extra time to fix the issues.

That being said, this year I plan to explain the very basics even better before I let them get started.

It seems that the toolbox with which most students used to arrive in our classrooms has diminished in size and usefulness over the decades. I often hear colleagues lament that they must spend so much more "front-end" time to assure that students have the tools and resources they need. In my opinion, if filling the toolbox so that our students can solve, design, compose and create independently is required, that is what we teachers need to do. This usually means fewer projects or assignments and more time spent on those which are deemed requisite to completion of the course. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but sometimes "less is more".

[quote]Not that I enjoy being "disliked", but I always tell my students to "figure it out". Why would a teacher not give this instruction to his or her students? Much to the consternation of my administrators, I make time for my students to do things themselves. Why would I do otherwise? I expect that by the end of the school year, each of my classes is able to enter the room, find the agenda for the day, find and organize their resources, and get to work on the assignment. I expect them to do this with little more from me than my nodding approval for a job well done. I also truly enjoy watching my students interact as the "figure it out" students work with the "slower kids" to bring them up to speed. When I was studying to be a teacher, we were taught that teachers and coaches are to "instruct and inspire". Student teachers at the university where I completed my undergraduate studies were taught that the goal of the classroom teacher was to cultivate independent thinkers and do-ers who would eventually assume the responsibilities of teachng and learning. Imagine that. Believe it or not, my students have been pretty successful with this approach. They come to enjoy relying on themselves rather than the teacher, and are very proud to tell the admin. (during the cursory walkthroughs)what is going on and that they are in charge. I guess I want to feel confident that when I do "abandon" my students, they will be able to figure some things out for themselves. Just food for thought.[/quote]

So I must ask, do your students walk in the room the first day and you give them no instruction on anything? Are they just supposed to figure out that the words on the board mean something? Do they just leaf through the book until they find out what E=MC2 means? If so, what do you bring to the equation of the classroom? Why not then just hand each student a book, with a paper printout of which assignments are due on which days, have them trade papers and grade themselves on those days and if they didn't figure it out just right, well too bad for them?

Yes, I am being sarcastic, to a degree. Why wouldn't a teacher give this instruction ("figure it out") to a student? Because they are a TEACHER. Their job is to TEACH, not observe. Not everyone can figure everything out without some kind of instruction. If they could, everyone could do everything without ever stepping foot in a classroom, they could just figure it all out by living life.

A teachers job should be giving the kids the toolbox you refer to in a later post, THEN abandoning them (joking-I mean setting them free). Too many teachers really do just say "figure it out" with no instruction at all. How can a student figure out what the slope intercept of a line is, when they don't know what the slope intercept formula is or where to find it? For those that CAN figure it out on their own, it still takes time to figure out where to find the information. There is only so much time in a class. If you spend all of it finding WHERE to get the information, you have no time to do the actual problems. "Do problems 100-200. Feel free to come up to me while I am busy checking my email, in the front of the class in front of all your peers who understand all this and let me know you don't understand this and I will help you...in front of all your peers....who will now know you don't understand this...because no one actually explained why this would ever be used or for what."

So a little instruction goes a long way "This is the slope intercept formula, you use it for this, here is an example of how to do it and why you would use it, the information is in chapter X, build a model staircase or install gutters on your house with the slope intercept formula, I'll be building my own model staircase up here at the front if you want some help, BE FREE....." Now THAT'S teaching.

This should be fun. You wrote:

"So I must ask, do your students walk in the room the first day and you give them no instruction on anything? Are they just supposed to figure out that the words on the board mean something? Do they just leaf through the book until they find out what E=MC2 means? If so, what do you bring to the equation of the classroom? Why not then just hand each student a book, with a paper printout of which assignments are due on which days, have them trade papers and grade themselves on those days and if they didn't figure it out just right, well too bad for them?"

Your question makes it painfully obvious that you either did not read or did not understand my post. As I posted, "I expect that by the end of the school year, each of my classes is able to enter the room, find the agenda for the day, find and organize their resources, and get to work on the assignment." Did you get it this time? I expect student to be able to do these things by the END of the year. Furthermore, if this is your best attempt at sarcasm, you need practice.

I don't know about you, but I check my email before and after school, between class periods, and during my plan period. I'm too busy teaching the rest of the day.

This may come as a bit of a shock to you, but many teachers use an exploratory approach to teaching and learning. This type of learning emphasizes search and discovery. There is a solid body of research supporting the efficacy of this approach. This approach requires considerable patience on the part of the teacher who must allow students to learn from their own mistakes (failures).

You wrote, "A teachers job should be giving the kids the toolbox you refer to in a later post, THEN abandoning them (joking-I mean setting them free)." Not suprisingly, I disagree. I believe my mission is to assist my students in cultivating certain skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Paramount among these skills, attitudes and behaviors are those essential for teaching and learning on their own. In my experience, that which is given is often not appreciated while that which is earned is usally valued. I am curious as to what you believe "instruction" is. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to advocate what so many of the recent "reforms" engender, namely telling kids the answers and solving problems for them for the sake of expediency. This usually results in higher grades, fewer complaints from parents, and kudos from administrators who are busy collecting hollow, meaningless statistics about how much more the kids are learning.

Anxiously awaiting responses!

Carpe Diem

You must be lots of fun in class! Wishnik! No shock to me that teachers use the exploratory approach in class, my kids have had several good ones. And some really poor ones, which is why I commented on your post. It is painfully obvious that you did not read or understand MY post.

You wrote: "I expect them to do this with little more from me than my nodding approval for a job well done." I don't see any indication of instruction other than "figure it out" in there. Again, if you are just watching everyone do their own thing, what value are you? You didn't answer that question, nor explain what actual instruction you give to the students. Just that you expect them to be able to do certain things with little more than nodding approval from you. Without any information on what you bring to table, it looks like you are little more than a figurehead at the front of the room. When a person claims they only instruct with "figure it out", and gives nothing else to show they have value, then I must ask, why are you there?

You must work for FOX network. By that I mean that like FOX, you either didn't read well enough to get your facts straight (those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read) OR you purposefully lifted my quote from the context in which it appeared to serve your own purposes. I invite anyone reading to visit the post on this strand. It clearly states, "I expect that by the end of the school year, each of my classes is able to enter the room, find the agenda for the day, find and organize their resources, and get to work on the assignment. I expect them to do this with little more from me than my nodding approval for a job well done." Once again, you have missed the obvious, specifcally that students are expected to be able to do these things on their own by the end of the year. I'm further amused that you somehow apparently arrived at the conclusion that I do not instruct my students on how to do things. I'm not certain if this indicates niavete, simplemindedness, or hubris on your part, but I never stated that I do not instruct my students. I do feel fairly certain that you and I have different opinions about what constitutes good instruction.

Oh yes, I must also address another misrepresentation in your response to my post. You wrote: "When a person claims they only instruct with "figure it out", and gives nothing else to show they have value, then I must ask, why are you there?" The fact is that I never made such a claim.

Have fun and Carpe Diem!

PS. Ususally I don't hold with the whole name-calling thing. However, I kind of like the "Wishnik" thing! What is that? It sounds cool!

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